AFL bosses have slammed as “appallingly offensive” a post on a popular Australian Facebook page that compared retired indigenous player Adam Goodes to a dead gorilla.
A league official said on Thursday that the AFL contacted Facebook to demand the post’s removal. It has since been deleted – seemingly voluntarily by the page’s administrator.
“The AFL immediately acted as soon as we were made aware of it, and we’re extremely pleased it’s been removed,” AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said on Thursday, as reported by the ABC.
The post was published by Facebook page AFL Memes. It depicted silverback gorilla Harambe, which was shot and killed at Cincinnati Zoo last week to protect a boy that fell into its enclosure. The caption read: “RIP Adam Goodes.”
It is unclear if the post was voluntarily deleted or removed by Facebook. A statement from Facebook obtained by the ABC said: “It looks like they removed it before we could take a look.”
The social media company reportedly dismissed earlier complaints from Facebook users.
The original post generated a flood of angry comments – as well as defence from those who saw the post as humorous and inoffensive.
The page’s administrator ridiculed the controversy on Thursday night with an image of Goodes taken during his playing days at the Sydney Swans with the caption: “Free kick to Hawthorn! That’s racist!”
The most-liked responses to this post were overwhelmingly negative, possibly as the result of an influx of Facebook users visiting the page in response to media coverage.
“No, but saying indigenous Australians are gorillas (aka subhuman aka flora or fauna) is undeniably racist,” Chris Chilcott wrote. His response generated almost 200 likes.
Another user, Matthew Roebuck, hit back. His argument was repeated by many others who defended the original post: “How about moving beyond childish offensive [sic] taking and if you find something offensive just ignore it?” His reply generated far fewer likes.
Many other Facebook users reacted angrily to AFL Memes’ latest post.
“Cry me a river AFL Memes. It’s not the 1950s anymore,” Jennifer Thompson wrote. Others described the page as “gutter trash”, “racist”, “pathetic”, “white supremacist”, “sore losers”, “dummy spitters”, and “loser”.
AFL Memes reportedly published a second photo comparing Goodes to the same gorilla, but it was seemingly overlooked in the controversy. This second post was also deleted or removed.
Adam Goodes did not respond publicly to the incident.
The two-time Brownlow Medallist suffered many allegedly racist incidents during his career, which sparked widespread media coverage and debate.
The most high-profile incident occurred in 2013 when a teenage girl called him an “ape”. Goodes’ reaction was to ask security guards to eject the girl from the stadium, which divided public debate.
Days later, AFL commentator and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire apologised for suggesting on radio that Goodes promote the King Kong musical.
Goodes became a prominent anti-racism campaigner after being honoured as Australian of the Year in 2014, although he was active on this issue in years prior.
He retired in 2015 after 372 games and two premierships for the Swans and is reportedly considering a career in politics.